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And the winners are ...

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In a room filled with Southern Oregon's most beloved and recognized in all things – from service industry professionals to “favorite” community entities – the Best of the Best awards ceremony hosted by Rosebud Media at the Inn at The Commons Saturday night celebrated the people and places that best define the Rogue Valley.

The distinguished “favorites” turned out in black ties and long dresses to receive their plaques and enjoy a round of applause. While those receiving plaques were, officially, the honorees, the most common sentiments were those of gratitude and genuine surprise.

Some recipients danced little jigs or fist-pumped during their brief appearance on stage. Southern Oregon Humane Society Operations Manager Ryan Johnson said the recognition as Best Community Service Organization was affirmation for plenty of long, exhausting hours of service from volunteers and staff.

“Pretty often it can feel that there's a lot of people that don’t really comprehend what goes into shelter work, so being recognized at this level is great. It’s a great event,” Johnson said.

“Adoptions are up from 1,000 to our peak being 1,800. We’ve had a lot of growth over the last five years, so it’s nice to be recognized for all the hard work.”

Named Best Law Enforcement Officer for his work with the Rogue Valley’s youngest citizens, Central Point police Officer JR Godley was humbled to be named top cop. Department Chief Kris Allison said the award could not have gone to a more deserving cop.

“JR exemplifies what it means to really serve the community,” Allison said.

“Not only the kids, but the parents love him. People just gravitate towards him, so I can’t think of someone more deserving to be here. He does an incredible job. We’re happy for him but not surprised to hear that he was recognized.”

Best Firefighter Leroy Brite, a Jackson County Fire District 3 veteran of nearly four decades, was humbled by the honor bestowed on him but said, even better, was the honor of a night to celebrate with loved ones. A well-known community member, Brite was surprised to be recognized in a valley with countless emergency responders.

“I started in 1980, so it was a pretty neat to be recognized but definitely surprising,” he said.

“It’s also really nice being in a room full of people being recognized for being good at what they do.”

Decked out in a sharp bowtie, the valley’s Best Teacher, Matthew Reynolds, fought tears when asked about receiving the honor. District 6 was named in three other categories; Best Principal (Tom Rambo), Best Middle School (Scenic) and best High School (Crater).

Superintendent Samantha Steele said it was humbling to see her district honored in so many ways.

“Being named says two things that we have an amazing staff that earned these awards but, the other side of it, that we have an incredible community that is very supportive,” Steele said.

Reynolds, director of drama and dance for Crater Renaissance and facilities director for Crater Performing Arts, called the distinction of being the valley’s favorite teacher surreal.

In a new category for this year’s awards, Best Dispensary recipient Pharm to Table was represented by a handful of supporters. General Manager Crystal Plotner said the awards ceremony was exciting to be part of.

“There are a lot of chains that come through here and we really try to make sure we’re putting the best face forward and that we’re really in touch with the community,” Plotner said.

“It just felt really great about the way this nomination and voting process was done. It felt really validating and we’re grateful to the Rogue Valley for recognizing us and supporting us and it just makes us that much more grateful for being part of such a wonderful community."

To see the winners in all 98 categories, see Sunday's Mail Tribune.

2018 Southern Oregon Best of the Best Awards are handed out in 98 categories. (PHOTO BY: LARRY STAUTH JR)
Crater Teacher Matthew Reynolds was selected Best Teacher at the 2018 Southern Oregon Best of the Best banquet at Inn at the Commons on Saturday. (PHOTO BY: LARRY STAUTH JR)